What is medical (or clinical) research?
Medical research (also called clinical research) is the study of health and illness in people. It is the way our society learns how best to prevent, diagnose and treat illness.
Why is clinical research done?
Clinical research is done to find out:
- What new drugs, devices and other treatments work and don’t work
- What causes disease
- What prevents disease and improves health
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is a type of clinical research study. A clinical trial is an experiment designed to answer specific questions about possible new treatments or new ways of using existing (known) treatments. Clinical trials are done to determine whether new drugs or treatments are safe and effective. There are four phases of clinical trials: Phase I trials test the safety of a possible new treatment in a small group; Phase II trials expand the study to test the effectiveness of the possible new treatment in a larger group of people; Phase III trials expand the study to an even larger group of people; and Phase IV trials takes place after the new treatment has been licensed and marketed.
Go to clinicaltrials.gov for more information.
What is the difference between clinical research and medical care?
People often confuse a clinical trial with medical care. This topic can be especially confusing if your doctor is also the researcher.
When you receive medical care from your own doctor, he or she develops a plan of care just for you. When you take part in a clinical research study, you and the researcher must follow a set plan called the “study protocol.” The researcher usually can’t adjust the plan for you – but the plan includes steps to follow if you aren’t doing well.
It's important to understand that a clinical trial is an experiment. By its nature, that means the answer to the research question is still unknown. You might or might not benefit directly by participating in a clinical research study. It is important to talk about this topic with your doctor/the researcher.
Return to main page